Chinese Fashion Designer Displays Beauty of Traditional Chinese Culture to World


Chu Yan has scored some remarkable successes in her dual roles in life: As a teacher, she has gained rich teaching experience — at Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology (BIFT, China’s premiere educational facility associated with fashion) — over the past 10-plus years; and as a fashion designer, she has won prizes at many national and international fashion-design competitions. Even better, she created her own fashion brand — “Chuhe Tingxiang” — in 2011. In recent years, Chu has been dedicated to showing the artistic beauty of Chinese dresses to the world.

Amazing Chinese Fashions

The China Cultural Center (established by the Chinese Government, with outlets in many cities in the world), on the left bank of the Seine River, in Paris, had a full house during the evening of February 25,2013 when Chinese and French models strutted along the catwalks flaunting the latest Chinese fashions.

The show was sponsored by the China Cultural Center and the International Cultural Exchange Center (under China’s Ministry of Culture) in Paris. Chu Yan’s fashions — the models wore 29 of her designs — impressed many of the spectators. Many celebrities, from Chinese and French cultural, fashion and business circles, shared their favorable impressions of the young Chinese fashion designer’s works.

Chu, born in 1975, was hired, in 2001, to teach at the Beijing Institute of Fashion Technology (BIFT) after she had received a master’s degree in fashion design from the school. Ten years later, she created her own fashion brand — “Chuhe Tingxiang.”

Chu applied the vegetation-dyeing technology (an ancient Chinese dyeing technology, in which flower and plant extracts are used to dye materials) in her designs for the 2013 spring and summer lines of clothing. She hoped, through her fashions, that people would perceive the elegant, serene and beautiful taste of traditional Chinese culture. Now, Chu custom tailors dresses and develops designs for famous-brand clothing suppliers.

“Paris’ China Cultural Center plans to organize fashion shows every year, to offer Chinese fashion designers opportunities to display their talent,” says Chu. “I’m lucky enough to be the first Chinese fashion designer chosen by the center.”

Chu is grateful for the foreign models, who went to the extra effort to receive training, prior to the fashion show, so they could get used to strutting along the catwalks to slow, melodious tunes played on the guqin (seven-stringed plucked Chinese instrument, which is similar to the zither).


Why China Sitting on Fashion’s Front Row

“Chinese designers raising profiles in the traditional style capitals like London, Paris”

“Haizhen Wang epitomizes subtle Chinese influences in Western-educated design generation”

“China is key driver of global profit for fashion industry”

 “Chinese tastes moving away from flashy designer logos to be more refined”

From Selfridges in London to Fifth Avenue in New York’, the sight of Chinese shoppers flocking to luxury clothing stores is now a familiar one for many in the West.

With its seemingly insatiable appetite for European and American luxury brands, China accounts for more than a quarter of the global luxury market — and that number is growing, according to market analysts like McKinsey & Co.

But the rising fashion credentials of the country’s consumers is not the only reason people are talking about China on the sidelines of this season’s runway shows in London and Paris. A new, young generation of Chinese fashion designers is causing a stir within stylish circles.

460Haizhen Wang Won the Fashion Fringe Award

As Paris Fashion Week begins Tuesday, marking the culmination of the fashion world’s twice-yearly dash between New York, London, Milan and Paris, these Chinese designers are yet again raising their profile in the traditional style capitals of the world.

One of those hoping to show that the flow of sartorial capital not only goes from West to East, but also vice versa, is Haizhen Wang. Originally from Dalian in northeast China, he trained at Central Saint Martins in London, graduating in 2005. Wang then came to the attention of the fashion world last year after winning the Fashion Fringe Award for young designers and was mentored by Burberry’s chief creative officer, Christopher Bailey.

461Haizhen Wang and Christopher Bailey

Like many of the emerging Chinese-born, Western-educated generation of designers, the influence of Wang’s home culture on his work is subtle. While his collection was inspired mainly by gothic architecture, Wang says his Chinese roots underlie everything he produces.

Made in China’ is finally cool

“Even if you can’t see any obvious Oriental influences, like dragons for example, across my pieces, the man who made this collection — me — is Chinese and that will always be there, even though I was trained in the West.” – Haizhen Wang

 Also epitomizing this new generation of Chinese designers is 29 year-old Huishan Zhang. He combines his Western training — he spent a year with Dior in Paris — with his Chinese heritage.

462Tipped by international fashion insiders as the one to watch in 2013, his first collection — stocked at London boutique Browns — sold out within a month.

Zhang spends several months each year back in China, where he sources all his hand-sewn fabrics from near to where he grew up in Qingdao, on the eastern coast. He says that a big challenge for Chinese designers is convincing people that “Made in China” can mean high-quality.

“We are really trying to learn and show people what we are capable of,” Zhang explains. He says China and the West can learn a lot from each other when it comes to design.

Zhang’s Autumn-Winter 2013 collection incorporates some noticeable Chinese influences. One piece in particular provides more than a nod to China’s recent history.

463Huishan Zhang’s version of the ‘Mao Suit’.

 His version of the “Mao Suit,” a staple symbol of uniformity under the Communist regime, has been updated with pink lace and diamante buttons and is the center-piece of his collection. Traditionally worn by men, Zhang says the piece partly represents giving “the power back to the woman and not the man”.

Huishan Zhang’s works

As designers like Zhang tap into the changing social norms of Chinese society, so he and others are taking note of the evolving fashion tastes in the country. He notes how much things have changed since the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s when China was largely cut off from the rest of the world.

“We now have this amazing opportunity to get in touch with the whole world,” Zhang says. He explains that because Chinese people until fairly recently had very limited wardrobes, there is a now a huge hunger there for new fashion.

China is now such a key driver of global profit for the fashion industry that Burberry’s stock price sank in early February after China announced it would ban advertising of luxury goods.

Tom Ford, the designer and film director whose name is almost synonymous with luxury and style, says he is closely watching how Chinese consumers are maturing. Ford observes that — as in other emerging markets — China is moving away from the initial lust for designer logos that tends to characterise the newly rich. “Tastes become quite refined and equalized with the rest of the luxury consumer all over the world … I think that’s really starting to happen in China and it’s moving very quickly.”

Angelica Cheung, founding editor of Vogue China, agrees that Chinese consumers have been on a huge learning curve over the last decade, and says her magazine has played a significant role in their sartorial education.

“We constantly emphasize the importance in knowing how to appreciate fashion, for example, we educate our readers on the history of couture and the great couturiers,” Cheung explains. “These are all aspects that, due to historical circumstance in China, our readers had little exposure to previously.” She adds that niche Chinese designers are doing increasingly well not because of patriotism, but because people appreciate their designs and their quality.

Haizhen Wang recognizes that his home country has huge market potential for him, but he feels that he still had to come to Europe in order to create his brand and get the training that would make big buyers take him seriously.

“China’s education system has a long way to go before it can produce a designer capable of being a global brand and taking on the international market,” he says. “I’m sure one day it will happen though.”

Fashion legend Giorgio Armani seems to agree, recently declaring he was sure that sooner or later China would produce a designer who shows in London, Milan and Paris.

It might be a while before Beijing Fashion Week is taken as seriously as Paris by the fashion cognoscenti, but industry heavyweights are switching on to the fact that China is now firmly on the front row of global fashion.





Exception, Home-Grown Chinese Fashion Brand, Has Its “Jason Wu Moment”

Several months ago, a photo of China’s new first lady, Peng Liyuan stepping out of a jet on a state visit to Russia, wearing a dark trench coat and toting a leather handbag, went viral on Sina Weibo (China version of Twitter), as users speculated on the brand of Peng’s bag.


Initially, Weibo users speculated that the bag was by Italian luxury brand Tod’s, but others were quick to identify the brand of the purse — as well as Peng’s jacket — as Guangzhou’s Exception (Exception de Mixmind). After being confirmed by an Exception PR representative, the discovery immediately set off a firestorm of interest in the brand on Sina Weibo.


While it’s too early to say whether Peng Liyuan’s endorsement of Exception is the brand’s “Jason Wu moment,” it’s certainly a big moment for the company, which already has its fair share of high-profile admirers. As CKGSB Knowledge wrote of the label last December:

“Exception has built a significant presence of over 100 stores in the Eastern cities of Beijing and Shanghai as well as their home base, the growing metropolis of Guangzhou. Exception is touted as the Chinese fashion industry success story and has an estimated annual turnover of more than RMB 900 million a year. Founder Mao Jihong claims that he’s the biggest in the market. Industry observers such as fashion media mogul Hung Huang have put the brand at the top of their watchlist for homegrown brands with the potential to make it big abroad.”

457Peng’s Exception handbag
458Tob’s handbag
Netizens initially thought Peng’s bag was this model, made by Italian brand Tod’s

The more interesting long-term implications of Peng Liyuan’s domestic-label style are that home-grown Chinese designers and brands could ultimately play a part in the central government’s ongoing frugality campaign in Beijing. While it’s unlikely that high-ranking bureaucrats will ditch their Audis for Red Flags anytime soon, we’ve already predicted that China home grown fashion brand sales will be better in 2013 than in 2012. The most visible government officials are already leaving their Swiss watches and Hermès belts at home for fear of netizen scrutiny. Now, led by Peng Liyuan, we just might see the wives of top officials doing the same with their Birkin bags and Burberry trenches.



China’s First Lady Sparks Interest in Home Brands

Chinese fashion label Exception is leading an unexpected surge in interest in domestic fashion brands after Peng Liyuan, China’s First Lady, was spotted wearing the label during a four-nation state visit with President Xi Jinping, her husband.

Footage of Peng stepping off a plane wearing a double-breasted black coat and carrying a leather handbag quickly went viral online, with Peng winning praise for her elegance and fashion sense.


“Her handbag will become a hot item!” said “shishangbozhu-YY” on Sina Weibo, China’s major microblogging service.

“Domestic brands are on the road! The Chinese dream is on the road!” said “Chenjiangningv” on Sina Weibo.

Fashion bloggers soon identified Peng’s outfit as the work of Guangzhou-based Exception.


Established in 1996 by a couple who shared a love of design, Exception now has nearly 100 retail stores nationwide. Its success has largely relied on its inexpensive prices and close connection to Chinese consumers.

Soon after Peng was photographed wearing the label, Exception spokeswoman Tan Jiayi said the company received multiple interview requests and the company’s website crashed due to heavy online traffic.

The company also said many VIP clients have asked whether Exception still sells the clothes worn by Peng. The Exception store in Chengdu has sold out of handbags similar to the one carried by Peng.


The high-profile display of confidence in domestic fashion is a contrast to China’s normal passion for foreign luxury brands.

Despite being the world’s greatest consumers of luxury goods, Chinese have rarely been big fans of their own brands.

In Hong Kong, Macao, London and Paris, Chinese shoppers can be seen in force at Louis Vuitton, Hermes and Gucci stores.

Luxury cars have also flourished in the Chinese market. British automaker Bentley Motors said last week it sold a quarter of its production last year in China.

Increasingly affluent Chinese surpassed U.S. consumers to become the world’s top spenders on luxury products last year. However, about 60 percent of their purchases were made overseas, according to a report released by the consulting firm Bain & Co.

After decades of rapid economic growth, China has seen some of its local brands enter Western markets. For example, telecom manufacturer Huawei and computer giant Lenovo have gotten a foothold overseas.

However, most Chinese brands remain virtually unknown to foreign consumers. Meanwhile, many Chinese are obsessed with foreign luxury brands, especially when it comes to fashion.

The lack of competitive brands has harmed Chinese entrepreneurs and also pushed the government to support indigenous brands.

For example, the government is considering purchasing fewer foreign vehicles for use by government officials. Last March, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology released a draft catalog of car models for government procurement that included only domestic names.

Government pressure is starting to have an effect. The Hongqi H7, a luxury car model manufactured by the China FAW Group Corporation, has been ordered by more than 10 provincial governments and some ministries, company president Xu Xianping said earlier this month.

However, Chinese enterprises still have a long way to go in forging powerful brands, said Xu Haoran, deputy chairman of the China Association of Small and Medium Enterprises.


Industry insiders are celebrating the recent attention paid to Exception, hoping it will create good fortune for the budding fashion industry.

Angelica Cheung, editorial director of Vogue China, said the buzz will create new opportunities for Chinese labels that are competing with Western counterparts.

On Monday, the clothing and textile sector of China’s stock market saw a 0.5-percent rise, bucking an overall downward trend, and over half the stocks in the sector rose, with three climbing by the 10-percent daily limit.

Peng’s impact has been described as similar to the “Kate Middleton effect,” a term coined after Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton brought attention to British fashion brand Issa after wearing one of its blue gowns to announce her engagement.

“Peng’s attire is likely to kick off a domestic-brand boom,” said “ShaoliBryant” on Sina Weibo.

Official figures indicate that China’s garment industry earned 1.51 trillion yuan (243.4 billion U.S. dollars) last year, up 11.2 percent year on year.

However, challenges have surfaced as the fashion industry matures.

Cheung said the amount Chinese companies spend on branding is low compared to foreign brands.

“Domestic companies are encountering fierce competition. Higher standards should be introduced and promoted,” Cheung said.

Cheung noted, however, that Chinese designers have started gaining global recognition as well as attention from home consumers, who have more “confidence and understanding” regarding domestic brands.

Su Baoyan, acting president of the China Fashion Association, said China’s fashion industry has a lack of high-level designers.

“Good designers are not only creative, but also able to take control of the entire process from production to marketing,” Su said.

In a commentary published on Tuesday, the Beijing News called for developing premium-quality domestic products rather than seeking profits through volume.

The trend that Peng has sparked might lead to the public paying more attention to Chinese clothing brands, giving such labels a rare opportunity, the Beijing-based newspaper said.


China First Lady Attire Intrigues Public Attention to China Fashion Brand

It is no longer Michelle Obama’s “privilege” to be the “First Lady of Fashion”, whose choice of “designer duds” boost designers and “budget-friendly pieces subsequently fly off the shelves”. Peng Liyuan, referred to by many Chinese web users as Diyi Furen (first lady), has started the “Peng effect” in China, in a similar vein as “Kate Middleton effect”. Not only did she create quite a fashion frenzy amongst the Chinese, she also sent the stock price of Chinese domestic fashion brands up by 0.5% the very next day following her eye-catching international debut with her husband Xi Jinping on his first state visit as China’s president. The apparel stocks continue to perform well ever since in China’s stock market.

449A snapshot of Peng in her various fashion gowns and suits during her overseas trip as China’s First Lady

Peng Liyuan, commented by the western media as “graceful” and “glamorous”, was popular with the Chinese public even before she became China’s First Lady because of her celebrated singing and performing career as well as her support for social causes as Chinese Health Ministry’s Ambassador for HIV/AIDS Prevention and WHO Goodwill Ambassador for Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. Her elegant international debut was an instant hit with the Chinese who, as always, managed to figure out that the brand of Peng’s black leather bag and her “smart, double-breasted black trenchcoat” are the works of a Guangzhou-based label “Exception de MIXMIND”, despite the official hush-hush over such personal details of the Chinese leaders and their family.

Overnight, “exception” became a hot word on the Chinese Internet. Almost immediately after Xi and Peng’s Moscow images hit the news, on, an Ebay-like popular Chinese on-line shopping website, same-style coats as Peng’s were put on sale with Peng inadvertently serving as the model with the picture of her waving from the plane in Moscow posted to promote sales. The coat was sold at 499 yuan (roughly $81).

Tight Internet censorship followed suit. The ads featuring similar items to Peng’s handbag and coat were soon deleted by the “skittish” for fear that they might spell trouble due to the “sensitivity” of the subject- Peng Liyuan.

Weibo, China’s twitter equivalence was also abuzz with pictures and talks about the fashionable and refined First Lady, who the users think represents China well. Probably due to the overwhelmingly positive reactions, Peng’s full name and the word “First Lady” appear not to have been blocked on Weibo’s search function. However, searches for “Peng Liyuan same design” and “First Lady same design” were blocked.

The Internet frenzy was only a tip of the iceberg that is the “Peng Effect”, which is spreading across the country. Multiple reports have surfaced about customers scrambling to Exception’s retail stores for similar items to Peng’s debut attire and accessory. Exception’s website, which apparently couldn’t stand the sudden surge of visitors, crashed on March 26 and recovered a day later. Mao Jihong, founder of Exception, was reportedly planning to “disappear” for a certain period because too many people were looking for him.


Peng Liyuan

Peng’s deliberate choice of domestic brands has been called “Peng Liyuan Style” by the Chinese netizens, which is seen by some China media as an encouragement to the homegrown fashion businesses and has raised hope that it will “change people’s mind about made-in-China products at least in the short term”. Many people have taken this opportunity to clamor for the rejuvenation of the Chinese national brands. Peng, with her ever-growing popularity and profile, is gradually taking up the role of the “First Lady” in the same way as her western counterparts do. The world is watching what changes she could help to bring to China.



Rainbows from the East– NE●TIGER shines at 2013 German-China Culture Festival


Top fashion brand NE TIGER attended the 2013 German-Chinese Culture Festival at the Chinese Culture Center in Berlin from May 24 to June 16. The event coincided with Premier Li Keqiang’ s visit to Germany.

Titled “Rainbows from the East Inherit Classics” NE TIGER’s collection of luxury garments exemplified the pinnacle of China’s fashion culture – a 5,000-year evolution that incorporates the art of 56 ethnicities.


Distinguished guests from political and business circles were stunned by NE TIGER’s splendid Chinese garments. Among its models was Hu Bing, an international male fashion model and actor who has long cooperated with the brand.

NE TIGER’s designs draw on history and blend Chinese elements with Western styles. The garments frequently incorporate minority ethnic elements in ways that suit modern styles and appeal to Chinese tastes.


It makes frequent use of Yun embroidery, where one inch is considered as valuable as a pound of gold, as well as precious and colorful silk needlework, knots, papercuts and paintings. Each garment radiates Chinese flavor and NE TIGER luxury.


China has a long history of producing luxury goods such as silk, porcelain, gold, silver, jade and tea, all of which met with incredible worldwide demand. Today, Chinese luxury brands are emerging again to compete with the world’s best, and NE TIGER is at the forefront.


The brand remains dedicated to competing with Western luxury brands on the world market and reviving Chinese luxury culture.

“Chinese garments represent the spirit of China’s nationalities,” said Zhang Zhifeng, creator and art supervisor of NE TIGER. “In a globalized world, the 5,000-year history of Chinese fashion is an important element of shared culture. China is leading world fashion trends together with European and American culture, and will open a new era of splendid civilization and fashion!”

NE TIGER’s latest collection is more than an assortment of Chinese emblems: it is a symbol of national strength and rich history. The brand sees itself as personally responsible for reviving Chinese fashion culture and bringing traditional Chinese garments to the world.

by Xiao Xiao @

Jenny Ji’s Wedded Bliss

Recognised as one of China’s leading designers and influencers, Jenny Ji’s design philosophy blends Chinese chic with modern wit. Her designs feature elements of tradition tempered by intelligence and humour, resulting in a unique signature style.

After training at the Instituto Marangoni in Milan, Jenny Ji worked at Basic Krizia, Missoni Sport and D’A as a designer and visual director.


Jenny Ji founded her eponymous label, La vie by Jenny Ji in 2002, a fashion and lifestyle brand that combines the essence of Chinese sophistication with contemporary tailoring. The brand resonates with the growing population of young, independent women.


Since launching her own fashion label, many of Ji’s loyal followers have requested wedding dresses. “Actually, I don’t like most wedding gowns in China. Girls wear the same dresses with huge princess skirts and most brides look the same,” Ji says. “I finally said, ‘Okay, let me give this a try.’”


Ji’s bridal line is marked with her signature touch – simple elegance and modern Chinese style. One gown that will be featured in a Shiseido cosmetics advertisement is classic white lace with a lavish red ribbon bow around the waist, draping down the gown’s modest train; while another dress has a cutout of the Chinese character for ‘double happiness’ on the lower back, adding a touch of both creativity and traditional auspiciousness.


“A lot of brides come to us and they want too much for themselves. They want a dress that will make them look young, slim, perfect,” Ji says. “But I think girls have to remember, they’re not models and this should be the one time in your life that you should be the most like yourself.

“The most important thing is not the clothes. The dress cannot be more beautiful than the bride,” she adds.

One thing has led to another for Ji’s idea to delve into lingerie design, for example, wouldn’t have happened if she had not seen brides-to-be having difficulties finding lingerie to complement her gowns’ low backs and distinct shapes.

“There’s no designer lingerie,” says Ji, sorting through her laptop to show mock-ups of some of the 30 lingerie designs coming out in March. “A lot of my customers couldn’t find lingerie that wouldn’t change the shape of the dress. So we thought, why don’t we design wedding and honeymoon lingerie sets?”

On top of that, the La Vie lingerie collection will also include everyday wear and maternity fits. And perhaps, if she weren’t pregnant while working on this line, the latter and baby apparel wouldn’t have come to exist either. “It’s so difficult to find nice maternity lingerie. When you’re pregnant, you still want to be pretty, and not look ugly with a huge belly,” Ji says with a laugh.

East Meets West Becomes a Lifestyle fashion

Jenny Ji is a very strong proponent of “East meets West,” with modern collections that draw on cultural cues; For example, her 2010 “Blue Tiger Porcelain” collection, which took inspiration from Chinese porcelain. The classic style of “Old Shanghai” is a key element of all of her designs and a style guide that Jenny Ji constantly re-invents.


Shanghaiist described her as a “soft-handed Vivienne Tam” and with a focus on being an ethical and eco-friendly designer, Jenny Ji is looking towards the future.

“We pick something traditional and use it in a modern way, make it more fashionable,” Ji says. “We’re proud of our history and culture, and we want to do something to remember them – not just put them away.”


Shanghaiist described her as a “soft-handed Vivienne Tam” and with a focus on being an ethical and eco-friendly designer, Jenny Ji is looking towards the future.

“We pick something traditional and use it in a modern way, make it more fashionable,” Ji says. “We’re proud of our history and culture, and we want to do something to remember them – not just put them away.”


by Xiao Xiao

The Chinese First Lady’s wardrobe

This year, the eyes of the Chinese fashion world have been attracted by the ‘Liyuan Style’, which means the fashion style of Peng Liyuan, who is the first lady of China.

Peng Liyuan is considered to be a style icon, and well positioned to be the focus of media. Let’s see some of the lovely clothing the first lady wore in 2014.


Peng Liyuan seems to be an epitome of Oriental chic at a state dinner at the Elysee Palace in Paris in March. Her black cheongsam-style gown featuring a sheer floral-patterned top makes her overall look modern and elegant.


For her final stop on the European trip in Belgium, Peng Liyuan opted for a lovely traditional embroidered Chinese outfit. The fabric, fine embroidery and soft colors all add up to an elegant style.


In May 2014, during the 4th Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia summit in Shanghai, Peng Liyuan wore a black tailcoat style jacket, and a graphic batik print, white and navy floor length dress, enhancing her style-icon image.


At the welcoming ceremony for the Congolese President in Beijing in June, Peng Liyuan opted a blue-and-white printed jacket, with a long blue skirt and dark blue heels, giving her a Chinese style that looks modern.


In July 2014, during her visit to Seoul, Peng Liyuan amazed Korean media with her lovely clothing choices featuring white and green, with details such as the exquisite flower brooch, cute little handbag and elegant heels.


In August 2014, Peng Liyuan accompanied her husband Xi Jinping to the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing. She wore an embroidered blue Cheongsam, with a matching small purse, displaying lovely traditional Chinese style.


When Peng Liyuan landed in Ahmedabad in September, she wore a pretty pink dress, with a flowing scarf stitched to one side. She accessorized her look with a white clutch, cream pearl studs and beige suede heels.


When Peng Liyuan landed in Ahmedabad in September, she wore a pretty pink dress, with a flowing scarf stitched to one side. She accessorized her look with a white clutch, cream pearl studs and beige suede heels.


In November 2014, Peng Liyuan wowed all with her delicately embroidered Cheongsam when she showed up at the APEC in Beijing.


In December 2014, Peng Liyuan opted for a formal grey jacket and a knee-length polka dot skirt with a chic pin when the South African President Jacob Zuma paid a state visit to China, showing her graceful style as the Chinese first lady.

by Xiao Xiao

Chinese Designers Embrace Global Fashion Stage(2)

For Chinese fashion icon Mark Cheung, an outstanding Chinese designer must have a deep understanding of his own culture and land to be able to make beautiful designs.


Cheung is regarded as representing of the first generation of Chinese designers and his annual fashion show is seen as the most important event in Chinese fashion circles. The 45-year-old wears many hats, including vice-chairman of the China Association of Fashion Design and chairman of the China Fashion Committee of Asia Fashion Union.

Whereas Zhang’s collections incorporate underlying ethnic tones, Cheung’s work has widely recognized landscapes and patterns of China as its crucial motifs.

Since 2000, the veteran designer has held fashion shows every year featuring Chinese landscapes and ethnic culture. For instance, The Soul of the Nations collection expresses the splendid and varied styles of 56 minorities; Royal Flavor radiates the glory and luxury of royal courts of the different dynasties of the past; Forbidden City reproduces the beauty and grandeur of the old buildings, and South China captures the striking scenery of ancient water towns and gardens.


All of Cheung’s collections are known for their rich palette, which includes pure whites, darker tones of brown and jade, bright red and the shining yellow of the imperial Forbidden City. Cheung’s fascination with ancient building styles can be seen in the lavish use of symmetry, bias cutting, pleating, carving lace-trimming, fagoting, sequining and beading. These techniques, combined with pure innovation, have enabled Cheung to fuse traditional culture with cutting-edge fashion.

Unlike Mark Cheung and Zhang Zhifeng, young designer Ma Ke has taken a different route.


Ma caused a sensation in February last year with her debut during the Paris ready-to-wear season. More performance art than fashion show, her models appeared on the catwalk with their clothes and skin caked in mud, like warriors from the terracotta army of Emperor Qinshihuang.


Buoyed by the success of her Exception label, which is sold in around 50 boutiques across China, she has recently launched her couture line Wuyong (“useless” in Chinese.)

And at the recent Paris Fashion Week, her invitation to show on the sidelines of the collections presented by the grand couture houses is a first for China, which has already marked a presence in the ready-to-wear segment in Paris since 2006.

The Chinese designer is also the only newcomer this season among the 20 or so would-be couturiers invited to show their collections alongside the houses officially deemed worthy of the “haute couture” designation.

Ma has given up the stereotyped Chinese elements such as stand collars and embroideries in her designs. A naturalist, she uses cotton and flax in all her collections and focuses on simple and natural styles in white, brown, grey and blue.


“Promoting Chinese fashion doesn’t mean you have to stick to Chinese icons. Heavily Chinese designs are not trendy and can hardly be accepted by international fashion circles,” says Ma. A believer in the philosophy of Lao Zi that sees clothes as the servant of the wearer’s soul, Ma Ke is recognized for her silent, organic and reflexive clothing that is creative and experimental. She has been praised by Le Monde and Vogue as a genius and her collection lauded as everlasting artwork.

by Xiao Xiao

Chinese fashion struts to the West

Hermès, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Chanel, even people who are not interested in buying luxury products can name a few brands and recognize their logos in China now. Chinese consumers have become so powerful and obsessed with luxury items that many of the brands view the Chinese market as a cash cow. However, luxury fashion lovers elsewhere in the world may not be familiar with any Chinese brands.

Though not widely recognized, some domestic luxury brands are seeing healthy growth and showing potential to become well-known luxury lines.

Hong Huang, creator of Brand New China (a business dedicated to promoting local designers), wrote in her blog earlier this week that in the past decades, Chinese aesthetics and values used to be at the edge of mainstream fashion. But as brands like Exception de Mixmind, Ziggy Chen, Chictopia and ZUCZUG have emerged, Chinese fashion has begun to make some noise.

Brands with potential

For most Chinese consumers just learning the “luxury” concept, the items they want and have become familiar with are fashion products. Clothes, shoes, bags, watches and jewelry are on most wish lists.

But designing and producing these items are not China’s strong suit. Due to differences in culture and custom, a typical list of luxury items in China is vastly different: liquor, tobacco, porcelain, furniture and tea. As a result, many firms that intend to create luxury fashion items fail to compete with brands from France and Italy and resort to copying their ideas.

“I am not producing a Chinese Cartier but a jewelry brand that belongs to China and speaks an international language,” Wang Yunhe, president of Zhaoyi Jewelry, said on Emerald with traditional Chinese handicrafts sounds a bit old-fashioned. But putting it into a modernized design and package can turn the “antique” into a fashionable luxury item with Chinese style. More importantly, it imbues the product with the Chinese culture of the emerald.


Qeelin, also a jewelry brand, provides China with another possibility of selling luxury items to the world. Its approach is to open a store in Paris targeting the foreign market firstly and directly. After seeing so many top luxury brands’ stores in Paris, Chen Ruilin, the founder and designer of Qeelin, decided to become neighbors with them. Chen’s shop is decorated with a bit of Buddhist style and each item purchased is boxed in the shop’s signature look.

Shanghai Tang Store


Franz Store


These brands along with Shanghai Tang, born in Hong Kong and now has dozens of stores around the world; and Franz Collection, originally from Taiwan and now selling fine porcelain in 56 countries, are all examples of companies profiting from China’s well-established reputation for certain specialties.

However, as relative newcomers in the global luxury industry, Chinese brands are unable to speak of long-held traditions or legendary stories. Still there are ways to add a soul to the name.

Not built in a day

Wang Yuexin, editor-in-chief of Fashion Weekly told the Global Times that although there are a few relatively successful high-end Chinese brands in fashion, they are not on a scale to be qualified as “luxury brand,” especially in women’s and men’s wear. While Chinese names are appearing more often in international magazines as designers, and dresses worn by Chinese actresses are catching attention on the red carpets of the world, the fame and reputation of a person or a dress cannot represent an entire brand.



Guo Pei’s Works


Zhang Zhifeng’s NE-Tiger and Rose Studio by Guo Pei are the most famous Chinese fashion brands in the world; both started with haute couture but now also produce ready-to-wear items. Cathy Horyn from The New York Times has reported on Guo and highly praised her designs. However, the two brands are largely based on the designers’ personal reputations and have not become chain businesses like the best luxury brands in the global market.

Wang explained that many entrepreneurs and enterprises are aiming high but few have the resources and courage to achieve their goal. They understand building up a solid and reputable brand is not a one-day task. “The top luxury brands all started with a designer and developed for a century to turn a fashion studio into a real global business. Only time can solve many of the problems we have at the moment,” said Wang.

Cai Sujian, the president of China Luxury Institute, a Hong Kong registered association, said the difference between top Chinese fashion brands and the world-class luxury brands mainly exists in the brand content, taking into account its originality, popularity, quality of services and cultural meaning.

“It is why NE-Tiger and Rose Studio products keep pace with the world standard in terms of craft and quality, but the brand as a whole still keeps a distance,” said Cai.

Culture is key

In an article by Michel Gutsatz published in Forbes last year, Qeelin was described as a brand that successfully combines traditional Chinese culture with French techniques. He emphasized that this is an advantage of the brand management but does not necessary lead to a real luxury brand. And it’s the same for the rest of the Chinese high-end fashion brands.

“The soul of a brand and fashion industry is its culture. Without culture, great investments and extremely high prices do not define the brand as luxury,” said Wang.

Cai pointed out that a key issue here is that China does not have a clear modern culture. Modernism or postmodernism, contemporary culture in China is hugely influenced by the West so developing an original culture is at the issue’s core.

For Wang, the culture we are talking about does not necessarily refer to any symbolic figure: “China today is within the globalized context. As long as the products are designed and made in China, they represent China, with or without looking Chinese.”


by Xiao Xiao